moved that Bill C-7, an act respecting the control of certain drugs, their precursors and other substances and to amend certain other acts and repeal the Narcotic Control Act in consequence thereof, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-7 today. This bill, the controlled drugs and substances bill, addresses one of the most compelling issues with which society is faced today, the issue of drug abuse.
Members will no doubt recall that Canada's drug strategy launched in 1987 created a comprehensive co-ordinated effort to reduce the harm caused by alcohol and other drugs to individuals, families and communities.
The harm caused by substance abuse includes, among other things, sickness, death, social misery, crime, violence and economic cost to all levels of government.
My department plays a leading role in Canada's drug strategy but we have many partners who co-operate in its implementation. These partners include other federal departments, the provinces, businesses, law enforcement agencies, labour and professional and volunteer organizations.
The strategy responds to four areas of need: prevention; treatment and rehabilitation; information and research; and enforcement and control.
As each member of this House is only too aware, drug abuse and the untold suffering it causes knows no geography, no socio-economic class, no social graces. I would think that every one of us has met constituents who have experienced the anguish of a son or a daughter, a sister or a brother, a friend or a neighbour consumed by the ravages of drug addiction.
The problem is widespread. According to a United Nations survey, trade in illegal drugs is second only to world trade in arms. Such is the clout of the global industry that we are up against in our efforts to control drug abuse in Canada.
Recent statistics reveal that within a single year almost 15 per cent of young Canadians ages 15 to 19 have admitted to using cannabis.
Moreover, the incidence of drug abuse rises considerably among teenagers and young adults who are school drop-outs, unemployed or homeless. Further evidence shows that over a one year period 2 per cent of Canadians claim to have used cocaine.
These are formidable figures. What do they mean? Just what is their significance? They mean heartache; they mean suffering. They mean a toll of crippling misery being exacted on those caught in that seamless web called addiction. The real importance of these figures goes well beyond their statistical relevance. They translate into many millions of dollars spent on health care, family welfare, unemployment benefits and disability pensions.
As a further response to this ongoing challenge, the government announced two years ago its renewed commitment to Canada's drug strategy.
On March 31, 1992, Canada's drug strategy was allocated $270 million over a five year period. Seventy per cent of these funds are directed to reducing demand for drugs through prevention, education and treatment programs. This new bill is one element of the other 30 per cent that is dedicated to law enforcement.
The bill now before us, along with the Proceeds of Crime legislation passed by this House in 1989, are fully consistent with the strategy's objectives relating to enforcement and control.
It takes direct aim at those who seek to profit from exploiting the young and the vulnerable. The bill is intended to consolidate, modernize, enhance and streamline the government's drug control policy underlying two current Acts of Parliament; and to fulfil Canada's obligations under three international conventions.
In 1961, the government of the day enacted the Narcotic Control Act. In 1961 and 1969, Parliament passed Parts III and IV in essence, much of our existing legislative framework is now more than 30 years old.
Furthermore, as signatory to three international agreements on the illegal drug trade, Canada is obligated to the terms of the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, the Convention on Psychotropic Substances of 1971 and the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychoactive Substances of 1988.
Consequently, the controlled drugs and substances bill is designed to achieve three prime objectives: to provide the government with the flexibility required to better control the import, production, export, distribution and use of controlled
substances; to provide the mechanisms needed to implement our obligations under international agreements-this relates to the restricted production or trade of internationally regulated substances destined for medical, scientific and/or industrial purposes-and to enhance the ability of the police and the courts to enforce our laws. The bill actually provides for the seizure and forfeiture of property used in offences involving controlled substances.
The existing Narcotic Control Act and the Food and Drugs Act do not deal effectively with emerging trends in drug abuse. These trends point to the increasing availability of new illicit or new designer drugs which, under current law, can escape effective control.
Under the aegis of the drug strategy, the government remains committed to a working partnership whose "raison d'être" is the reduction of drug abuse in Canada.
The controlled drugs and substances bill is an integral part of the strategy. It consolidates, modernizes, enhances and streamlines drug abuse provisions contained in the two current laws. Simply put, it builds on the government's current policy on drug abuse.
Those who profit from this are undeniably resourceful, determined and cunning. Their methods, their tactics and their products are forever undergoing change. We need flexible legislation which allows those on the front lines of enforcement to adapt quickly to these new developments as they occur.
For example, one of the more recent developments in the drug underworld is the production and illicit sale of so-called designer drugs and look alike drugs. Designer drugs are potent substances with slightly different chemical structures than substances presently controlled by the Food and Drugs Act and the Narcotic Control Act, substances like stimulants, tranquillizers and pain killers. These drugs affect abusers in similar ways and can lead to the same health and social problems produced by more conventional drugs.
Look alike drugs, on the other hand, are substances made to resemble illegal drugs. The manufacturers of these malicious offerings can mimic the more powerful drugs. Much harm can result from the abuse of these drugs and primary targets of these merchants of misery are often school-age children.
The manufacture and sale of designer drugs and look alike drugs can be a very profitable business. Sadly, it is a business with terrible consequences for hundreds of thousands of customers, many of them young people.
Under the current Food and Drugs Act and the Narcotic Control Act, drugs must first be listed on a schedule to the act. This regulates the conditions for the sale of that particular substance in Canada. Only once a given substance is listed can it become an offence to sell it. To correct this deficiency the controlled drugs and substances bill proposes interpretive clauses to include these substances.
Under this proposed act, new illicit drugs appearing on the street which fit this description will be covered automatically.
The bill also permits the control of precursors. Precursors are chemical substances used to produce controlled substances. New provisions contained in this bill will enable authorities to regulate the import and export of these substances.
Other sources of drugs sold on the street are substances intended for medical or scientific use. They may be stolen from a hospital, obtained through illegal prescriptions, secured by obtaining numerous prescriptions from different doctors for the same ailment, or via a forged prescription. People who deal in diverted pharmaceutical drugs are collecting very large profits.
The bill enhances present controls that deal with this issue. Under this bill the monitoring of the distribution of drugs will continue.
To ensure compliance with the law and prevent diversion, inspectors, in close co-operation with law enforcement authorities would continue to visit pharmacies, hospitals, licensed dealers, dispensing practitioners, researchers and laboratory analysts.
We know there exists a criminal element which is using more and more sophisticated networks to illegally produce, sell, export or import controlled substances in Canada.
These people buy property and consumer goods to further their criminal activities and bolster their personal wealth.
As I see it, such people should be prevented from retaining illegally obtained capital and goods.
The bill before us today, together with the proceeds of crime legislation, strikes at the heart of criminal enterprise.
Together, these enactments will enable the courts to strip criminals of profits and property illegally amassed through drug dealing.
Trends in illegal production, distribution and use of controlled substances change frequently and quickly.
This bill is designed to deal with current problems and to anticipate future needs. There is no doubt that there is a very real problem of drug abuse in Canada.
It causes death, injury and illness; leads to lost productivity in the workplace; is a burden on our health care system; and, increasingly, puts a strain on our courts and police forces.
In spite of these glaring facts, some people still doubt that drug abuse is a real concern for the majority of Canadians. They imagine that it is a local problem, affecting relatively few teenagers, primarily among low-income groups in large cities. It is true that it is not possible to measure accurately the full scope of drug abuse in Canada.
What the statistics fail to show are the personal and social costs-in a word the real costs. We can only guess what the real costs of abuse are: the loss of the potentiel achievements of our youth; the crippling of promising professional careers; the painful destruction of homes and families; the costly disruption of productive communities. These are the disturbing facts of life in virtually every corner of the nation.
Fifteen per cent of teenagers using cannabis. The total number of Canadians using cocaine-500,000 persons. These facts, as unsettling as they are, deserve our attention. They deserve our attention as legislators.
More important, they deserve our attention as parents, family, friends, colleagues and neighbours to those in need, for nobody is immune. I believe the bill proposes a significant strengthening of our current legislative framework.
At the present time three levels of government spend millions of dollars each year on drug law enforcement. In spite of these enormous expenditures, the fact is that police forces and the courts are hampered by outdated provisions in the laws they seek to uphold.
I welcome debate on the bill. While there are bound to be differences of opinion, I believe this bill merits, nonetheless, the support of members on all sides of the House. In bringing the bill forward I am asking on behalf of the crown that we as members of this place do our part to help equip the government with a new set of tools that will allow us to get on with the job at hand.
It may well be that striving for a drug free society is an unrealistic if laudable goal. Given what is at stake I submit that Canadians expect us to act.